Video Forensics Aids Scottish Police With Murder Investigation and Conviction
On April 26, 2008, 41-year old Tracey Scott was found murdered at her home in Foxbar, one of the biggest housing estates in Paisley, Scotland. In the house, Paisley CID (Criminal Investigation Department) police officers found five tins of coins, money she received as tips from her work at a Glasgow Airport bar. At the time of her death, there was £354 ($585) in coins, but her sister believed she had close to £800 ($1,325), as she was saving to buy furniture.
With no obvious motive, the Paisley CID began looking into her background, interviewing, among others, her ex-boyfriend, Paolo Parracho, a 39-year old Portuguese citizen, who denied any involvement with the crime and offered an alibi. Investigators soon learned, though, that he was behind on his mortgage, heavily in debt otherwise, and was suspected of owing a friend £400 ($660) for cocaine.
Officers then began reviewing public area and local business video surveillance tapes as part of their investigation strategy. In the 1990s, the UK saw tremendous growth in the use of surveillance cameras by both public and private organizations, totaling over four million cameras in use today.
However, not all crime scene, or nearby area, video is clear or captures the best view of potential suspects and evidence. Video can also be shaky, of poor resolution, badly lit, damaged, and multiplexed (multiple camera streams recorded together). Even worse, investigators are also challenged when video is recorded in proprietary digital file formats not easily transferrable for processing and analysis onto law enforcement PCs.
The Paisley CID team brought in Forensic Telecommunications Services Ltd. (FTS), a UK-based company that extracts, analyzes and presents forensic evidence from mobile telephones, cellular networks and other forms of computing and mobile communications technology. By adding video forensics and image enhancement to its arsenal of forensic evidence technology, FTS helps UK law enforcement agencies more efficiently process video evidence and leads.
Alan French, Audio and Video Forensics Manager with FTS, decided to use Salient Stills' VideoFOCUS system to try to capture and enhance available local video, and provide still images to law enforcement. Using innovative processing algorithms, VideoFOCUS dramatically improves the ability to capture and export digital video, and work with proprietary video data formats from security systems, as well as from cell phones. This video forensics system also digitizes analog video, and captures analog and digital video from open and proprietary systems, into usable images for investigators, while preserving video integrity.
Using VideoFOCUS, French was able to recover the footage from the closed circuit television (CCTV) systems at an Asda supermarket in Linwood, Renfrewshire, a few kilometers away from the crime scene, and Paisley's Gilmour Street railway station, the closest station to Tracey Scott's home.
French's analysis of the surveillance video showed a male entering the Asda supermarket at 11:30 p.m. on April 26, three days after Scott was determined to have died. The male fed coins into a cash changing machine to exchange the coins for notes in the amount of £483.90 ($800). More clearly, French found Parracho in video earlier in the day of the murder, at the Gilmour Street railway station. Separately, Paisley CID investigators learned that the day after Tracey's murder, Parracho repaid £300 ($495) of the £400 ($660) he owed for cocaine. Additional law enforcement investigations found his DNA on a coffee cup and a blood-soaked cushion at the crime scene.
Armed with all this evidence, police detained Parracho as a suspect on June 4, 2008, and showed him still photos (produced by VideoFOCUS from the enhanced CCTV video) during his interview. The photos enabled law enforcement to contradict Parracho's alibi, provide a motive for the murder, and directly link to the crime. He soon admitted that he was the person in the photos and could offer no plausible explanation for possession of the money or the DNA evidence linking him to the crime. He was arrested and charged with murder. It was later determined the amount of missing coins equaled what was cashed in by Parracho.
After a trial and presentation of all this evidence at Glasgow High Court, a jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict to Parracho, and on February 20, 2009, he was sentenced to life in prison, with a 17 year minimum before being eligible for parole.